In these times of blockchain technology, the Internet of Things, smart cars and cities, the digitisation of business processes, internet-based purchases and payments and the share economy, only those who adapt to the digital economic and social environment will survive;
Your office is focused on corporate, contract law, information technology rights and intellectual property rights. To what extent has the legal system defined issues related to information technology?
– Information technologies create an entire array of situations that need to be dealt with legally, and this is not just about copyright, licensing, trademarks, designs and patents, but also the nondisclosure of information, knowhow, employees’ rights, unfair competition, business secrets, personal data protection, complicated contractual relations, subcontracting, taxes, penalties, responsibilities etc.
Finally, information technology produces new social relationships that need to be regulated legally, which is best seen by the confusion in the protection of personal data which led to the recent adoption of the so-called GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) among internet-based companies in the EU and the U.S. People in our country forget that the GDPR doesn’t only apply on the territory of the EU, but rather also has personal effect beyond the EU’s borders when it comes to EU citizens. The penalties are astronomical, and the risks in business are something to which we must pay the utmost attention. I’m not sure that domestic companies and public enterprises are aware of that.
How exposed is Serbia to penalties for violating intellectual property rights and plagiarism laws?
The Kingdom of Serbia was one of only 11 signatory countries to the Paris Convention of 1883 covering the protection of industrial property. Regulations in terms of the protection of intellectual property are probably the most harmonised segment of our legal system in relation to the EU. The differences are almost negligible, but the implementation of intellectual property regulations still remains at a low level. We need specific trial chambers to be specialised in this domain, because it is devilishly difficult to prove in court that someone has infringed on your intellectual property rights. Perhaps the licensing of an intellectual property expert within the Intellectual Property Office would solve this problem to an extent.
Our obligatory law supports the clashes of the new era and it is certainly better to appear in court with a detailed contract than without one, because there are no existing solutions in law for individual contracts or relationships, nor for established practises
Viewed from your perspective, what else will Serbia have to do prior to joining the EU that isn’t covered by some of the accession negotiation chapters?
Serbia needs to move forward, bravely and forcefully implement reforms, solve problems and solve them. Serbia needs interaction with the world, because that’s the only way that it can progress and realise its potential. Serbia must accept and learn standards from chapters for its own sake, while it must prove that it is a reliable partner to the international community.
Serbia will have to resolve all of its issues with its neighbours within the frameworks that are communicated through international documents, to exert additional efforts in the field of constitutional reforms, media regulations, the rule of law, strengthening judicial independence, fighting corruption etc.
Foreign investors – and increasingly domestic ones too – complain about various forms of the grey economy. To what extent do legal regulations in Serbia and the region protect their rights and profits?
Paying taxes should be an issue of patriotism. The grey economy is a generator of many of our problems and causes damage to every investor. Being familiar with happenings around foreign investors, thanks – among other things – to conversations under the auspices of AmCham, the areas under-fire are tobacco, medical products and medicines. Just is available to investors, but is slow, which also applies to other citizens of Serbia, and this is a problem that must be solved systemically.
Regulations that cover the grey economy are relatively good, so it seems to me that their further improvement will not have a significant impact on reducing figures, as this should be resolved through improved implementation, the specialisation of trial chambers and increased investment in equipment, personnel and inspections. This would reduce the level of the grey economy.
Legal practitioners must move away from their already known organisational problems and courageously engage in the changes that are already occurring in many segments of our society
You deal with the representation of the Jewish community in the property restitution process for Holocaust victims without heirs. To what extent has the Serbian states responded to this delicate task?
Yes, we have the unique opportunity of representing the Jewish Community in Serbia in the process of returning property under our law, which is actually a wonderful example of cooperation between Serbia and the U.S. It was nearly a decade ago, in 2009, that the so-called Terezin Declaration was signed by 46 countries, including Serbia. The whole of Europe has real estate properties that were taken from executed Jews and cannot be returned to their rightful owners because all family members were killed, so there are no living heirs and descendants. The Republic of Serbia, as one of the signatories of the declaration, was the first and only European country to enact a specific Law on so-called Jewish Restitution in 2016. This law enables Jewish municipalities to recover property that is still under the ownership of the Republic of Serbia and which was seized from Jews who do not have living legal heirs. The U.S. passed a law called the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act, which was symbolically announced this year on 9th May, the Day of Victory over Fascism, which aims – among other things – to monitor which signatory countries of the Terezin Declaration have adopted appropriate measures. Given that the Republic of Serbia is almost the only state to have adopted an appropriate law and returned certain properties to Jewish municipalities, these flows should certainly be nurtured and communicated positively with the United States and the State of Israel.
How do you rate Serbia’s judicial system and what are your greatest objections?
The slowness of the work of our courts is our main problem, which is the result of a large number of cases. It seems to me essential that we urgently and comprehensively digitise the process. Submitting entries electronically is one way of speeding up communication between the parties in legal proceedings, and to unburden registrars from written communication. Judges could, I believe, be unburdened through amendments to the Civil Procedure Code. This would allow legal parties, along with lawyers, to undertake certain actions – such as hearing testimonies of witnesses or parties – without appearing in court, for example with the inclusion of a public notary and an audio-video record.